Bertrice Small

The Queen of Erotic Historical Romance

Life

Erotic historical romance pioneer and bodice ripper trailblazer, Bertrice Small, passed away on February 24, 2015, at the age of 77 due to kidney failure. She was in the midst of writing her final book, which as of yet was unreleased. Her husband predeceased her in 2012. She left behind a son named Tom, and several grandchildren.

Small was born Bertrice Williams in Manhattan, New York City, NY on December 9, 1937. She was married for almost 50 years to George Small. A Native New Yorker, she lived on eastern Long Island for 30 years, in the oldest English settlement in New York, the town of Southhold.

Writing Career

Her first two books were published by Avon. 1978 saw the release of The Kadin, which was unique in that the heroine shared her hero with other women in a harem. The story was less a romance than the historical saga of Scottish-born heroine, Janet Leslie/ Cyra Hafise. This was was followed by Love Wild and Fair.

Her next several books, including her most famous, Skye O’Malley, were contracted to Ballantine.

It wasn’t until she published A Love For all Time with Signet that her covers would start to be almost exclusively designed by Elaine Duillo. Small maintained a lifetime friendship with the artist, as well as purchasing much of the original cover art for her books and decorating her home with the oil paintings. Duillo’s final cover before retirement was Small’s 2002’s Just Beyond Tomorrow.

Erotic Romance Pioneer

Not only was she one of the originals dames of the historical romance genre, but she was one of the most truly graphic erotic romance writers. Despite her penchant for euphemisms and prose so purple it made you think about real purple parts of the body, she knew how to write some kink. She upped the ante in explicit sex in romances and introduced terms like “manroots,” “honey ovens,” “love-grottos,” and “love juices.”

Many of her early works involved the extremely beautiful and perfect heroine falling in love with her hero, somehow getting separated from him via capture/enslavement/forced marriage with another man. She would be seduced by an exotic lover to new realms of sensual delights and then later reunite with husband #1 in eternal sexual bliss, or some variation thereof.

Small’s books would span all time periods, from ancient Rome and Constantinople to medieval Wales to Tudor and Stuart England to India under the Mughal Khans. Later in her career Small wrote mostly books set in Scotland, Renaissance Italy, and a paranormal series about a world of fairies.

My Bertrice Small Experience

Although, as a fellow Long Islander, I have lived most of my life not too far from Ms. Small’s home, I only discovered her works later in my romance reading days, somewhere in the late 1990’s. Up until then, I had not appreciated how groundbreaking she was in the genre’s history.

My personal favorites were the over-the-top Skye O’Malley, its sequel All the Sweet Tomorrows, and the Roman-era Beloved.

Her Legacy

Her books may have been controversial, but Small had a fiercely devoted following. Bodice ripper lovers cannot deny the lasting effect Bertrice Small left in the world of erotic and historical romance.

BOOK REVIEWS:

Enchantress Mine

The Innocent

Skye O’Malley


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